Thomas DeFrank on the strange secret twilight struggle between the factions of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush:
New York Daily News - Home - One proud Poppy ... but: W follies mar legacy, ex-Prez's aides gripe BY THOMAS M. DEFRANK: DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: The elder Bush voices public support for his son, but many of the former president's closest aides beg to differ.
WASHINGTON - At this month's christening of the nuclear aircraft carrier bearing his name, former President George H.W. Bush delivered a rousing endorsement of his son. "I am very proud of our President," the elder Bush said in rain-swept ceremonies in Newport News, Va. "I support him in every single way with every fiber in my body." Yet many of his closest former aides beg to differ.
Indeed, one of the worst-kept secrets in Bush World is the dismay, in some cases disdain, harbored by many senior aides of the former President toward the administration of his son - 41 and 43.... For five years, the 41s have bit their collective tongues as, they complain, the 43s ignored their counsel. But as the war in Iraq has worsened and public support for the current administration has tanked, loyalists of the elder Bush have found it impossible to suppress their disillusionment - particularly their belief that many of 43's policies are a stick in the eye of his father.
"Forty-three has now repudiated everything 41 stands for, and still he won't say a word," a key member of the elder Bush alumni said. "Personally, I think he's dying inside." To 41 loyalists, the bill of indictment is voluminous.... 43 has betrayed his father's middle-of-the-road philosophy by governing as a divider.... 43 isn't [really] conservative.... "Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest," Smith said. "Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none."... 43's... "cowboy diplomacy"... estranged the U.S. from its allies and diminished its authority around the globe.... Iraq... the appointment of 41's close friend and former secretary of state, James Baker, to chart a new Iraq policy as belated vindication. The 41s remain incensed, however, that Brent Scowcroft... has been demonized.... "What Brent said is now the accepted wisdom," a senior 41 hand said, "and everyone believes 41 agrees with him, though he'll never say it."...
[A]ides to the current President reject the criticism as nitpicking from out-of-touch malcontents... charging much of the damaging material in Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," was provided by 41 partisans. "Nobody has a monopoly on wisdom," a 43 staffer said, "especially those whose information may not be as good as when they were in power."...
"We're all on our best behavior," a top 43 official joked. A few moments later, however, one of 41's most prominent counselors couldn't resist. Trading social gossip at a reception, the ex-aide noted that former Secretary of State Colin Powell was in attendance. "He should be here," the adviser noted. "We didn't fire him" - a barbed reference to Powell's departure as 43's top diplomat after four years of bureaucratic fisticuffs with Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, two frequent targets of the 41s.
"Everyone knew how Rumsfeld acts," another key 41 assistant said. "Everyone knew 43 didn't have an attention span. Everyone knew Condi [Rice] wouldn't be able to stand up to Cheney and Rumsfeld. We told them all of this, and we were told we don't know what we're doing." Another top former 41 loyalist confided that several ex-colleagues remarked on a perceived "stature gap" between father and son as they sat on the dais....
[T]he 41s suggest a singular irony: the unpopularity of the son's administration may be rehabilitating the father's. "By comparison, the old man looks better and better," a senior 41 hand said, with undisguised satisfaction.
The senior 41 hand is wrong: the worse 43 is, the worse 41 looks: 41 gave 43 his rolodex and endorsement, after all.